Look, listen, learn: what is social listening, and why is it important?
A key part of any successful business is to understand the thoughts and feelings of your customers, and react with content based on those findings. But merely discovering those thought processes and acting on them directly can only take you so far.
If you can get well and truly under the surface of your customers, and find out the why of their interactions and buying habits instead of just the how, you’ll be equipped with vital context to guide your future plans.
In a social media environment, this is known as social listening, and it can be an extremely useful way of engaging your customers with your brand and products like never before.
So what is social listening? And how does it differ from social monitoring?
Social listening basically takes the action of social monitoring and spreads it over a much wider and deeper area.
Whereas social monitoring will look specifically for mentions of your products or business across different social media platforms, social listening can also pick up conversations about related products and other companies in the marketplace.
The other important difference between the two is what happens with the information collected. Social monitoring is basically a numbers game: you quantify how much engagement or how many mentions you’ve had on a particular topic, and compare that to previous figures to see how fast things are improving (or not, as the case may be).
Social listening, on the other hand, can look beyond the numbers into the general feeling and mood of a market or sector as a whole. It can capture recurring issues and trends that may not be directly related to your sales or your messaging, but that can give you a better picture of customer sentiment overall.
As a result, social listening is the more favourable option for generating suggestions and actions that can improve marketing, and consequently sales.
Ultimately, social listening is the digital equivalent of running a focus group. If you or your social team are consumed day-to-day with handling specific individual queries and comments, they may be too immersed to take a wider, more holistic view. Social listening analysis, however, makes it much easier to evaluate everything else that’s going on around you.
Why is social listening important for business?
Well, for a start, it can give you an edge over your competitors for the simple reason that it still isn’t widely used, even though social media marketing is now pretty much universal.
As of 2016, less than a quarter of brands were doing social listening, meaning that there’s an opportunity for you to pick up on customer trends that your rivals will simply miss.
But on a more practical level, social listening can help you understand your relationship with your target audience on a much more refined level. Here’s a hypothetical example (one that does not make any assumptions about the fashion sense of the author!).
A menswear retailer finds that prominent social messaging about skinny jeans has been consistently popular for a long time and that skinny jeans tend to sell well. However, boot-cut jeans are seemingly starting to become fashionable again, according to social listening that’s picking up more conversations about boot-cut jeans and less about skinny jeans.
Armed with that information, the retailer quickly changes their messaging strategy to place more emphasis on boot-cut jeans and takes full advantage of the burgeoning interest in it.
This process happens in real-time, so you can adjust your messaging strategies almost immediately to seize new opportunities as soon as they emerge. Equally, as interest fades in certain areas, it’s easy to make sure that time and money isn’t wasted promoting products or services with reducing appeal. In short, social listening can make messaging more informed, more agile and more efficient.
What are the key social listening strategies and tips?
What works for you may not be best for other companies, and vice versa, so there’s no hard and fast ‘tricks of the trade’ that will work for everyone. But there are a few tips that might give your results and subsequent actions an extra boost:
- Head off the beaten track: going beyond the usual trends with the terms you listen out for can uncover especially interesting activity that’s less likely to be noticed or utilised by your competitors.
- Find your influencers: these are the people that will play the biggest role in the conversations you listen to over time. So identify the relevant ones to your marketplace and listen in to how people react to what they post: it can determine how important it will be for you to build and maintain working relationships with them.
- Clean up your data: don’t forget to make sure that all the data and conversations you pick up on are relevant to your listening strategy. It’s easy to collect misleading information that impacts on your findings, especially in cases where names or words have more than one meaning.
How can I carry out social listening for my business?
There are several major social listening tools available that you can use to evaluate conversations across any topic you can think of. But of course, different platforms will offer different services.
They vary in terms of the social media platforms they cover, whether they look at other sources of conversation like news sites, review sites and blogs, and how they analyse information and report back to you. So it’s important to evaluate them all and see which ones fit in best with your goals.
It’s also worth considering engaging the services of a marketing agency that specialises in social listening. That way, you can get expert advice on the platforms and tactics that are right for you, and benefit from the experience of people who know what to look for, and who can spot an emerging trend at 50 paces.
Because when social listening is done right, you’ll only hear the sound of great interactions between you and your customers.
Whatever your industry, Creation Agency is the social media marketing company that can help you get the most from your social listening. Click here to find out more on what we do and how we do it.